By Biére de LysMany people think it doesn’t change anything, that it’s just to be fancy… Well, these people are wrong; it is important!
Last updated: August 12, 2012
Why choose the right glassware?
To pour one’s beer in the right glass is a good way to emphasize the right aromas and produce a desirable head to retain the perfect taste intensity. One can find a suitable glass in an array of only a few different glass types, not having to buy one for each different beer, and reap the advantages of having a glass that fits the beer we’re about to drink.
So what really happens when we taste a beer? Essentially, when we tilt the glass to drink from it, aromas are perceived by our smell, which functions in harmony with our sense of taste. Depending on the quantity of smell our nose captures, an equilibrium is created with what we taste at the same time. Actually, our smell is basically responsible for around 80% of what we taste. Wouldn’t it make sense, then, to promote the way we smell our beers in order to taste them at their best? It is desirable to have the right glass in order to promote the creation of a good equilibrium.
Some people say we should rinse the glass before pouring a beer; it is a typical practice in Belgium, since Belgian yeast often produces a lot of head, and a rinsed glass usually creates a better one. Some are opposed to this idea. On my opinion, I noticed the glass is going to be better looking, fewer bubbles stick to the side, and I am becoming proficient at creating a perfect head when my glass is rinsed.
When the beer is poured, especially in the case of strong beers, let it breathe. Strong beers, after being poured, will have less marked alcohol taste & aroma after a certain time, which is similar to the effect of letting the liquid warm-up. My advice: pour the beer a bit colder than recommended, keep your glass in your hand and slightly stir the liquid to warm it up and aerate it. Test it! Taste it when it’s too cold, follow my advice, and taste it again 5-10 minutes later.
The most common glassware in Quebec, especially in public houses offering something more exotic than Labatt 50 or Budweiser, are pints (or, bottles… face palm). When you visit a craft brewery, however, a good brewer should know in which glass to pour a given beer. You may find:
The Beer Stein
Mug, Bierstein, Seidel, Bierkrug (0.5L), Masskrug (1L), Humpen
Made of either glass or stoneware, medium-sized or really huge, it’s made to be knocked hard when cheering. The handle helps keeping the liquid cold for longer during warm summer days, and the liquid flows quicker than with other glasses!
⁃ most German-inspired beers, namely Doppelbock, Maibock, Märzen, Rauchbier (smoked beer), etc.
⁃ most American beers, namely Pale Ales, IPA, brown ales, strong ales, etc.
Nonic (20oz), Tumbler (16oz), Becker
Typically English and Irish, widely spread, this glass is very common in breweries and pubs; it’s easily adapted to different beer types. The shape varies between the English, Irish, or American versions. As with the beer stein, pints have a wide opening and allow for a big head to be formed.
⁃ English and Irish beers
⁃ Pale ales
⁃ Smoked beer (Rauchbier)
Tasting glass similar to scotch/whiskey glasses, its balloon shape allows to warm the liquid with our hand before drinking, which is a good thing when it comes to strong beers. The tighter mouth encloses the aroma and allows a taster to smell the beer well.
⁃ Most strong beers
⁃ Barley Wine
⁃ Imperial Stouts and IPAs
⁃ Strong Ales
Also, the perfect glass for tastings if you don’t want to use many glasses for small quantities of beer!
The Pilsner Flute
Pilsblume, Pilstulpe, Pilspokal
Either slender (pilstulpe), or short, on stem, and larger at the bottom (pilspokal), it allows a quick liberation of aromas when the glass is tilted, because the head, not being very wide, easily exposes a lot of beer to the air, which is good because pils usually don’t have a strong scent and you basically want to equilibrate the smell with the taste in order to enjoy your beer. The shape also allows to produce a thick head, which is likelier to stay until the end, preserving the aromas underneath and releasing them in a timely manner when you are about to drink. Basically, this v-shaped glass allows the head to do this at it loses its froth, the surface being reduced with each sip, therefore concentrating the head so that the subtle aromas are preserved until the end, heightening the tasting experience of this often neglected beer.
⁃ Pils (duh!), or Pilsner or Pilsner, depending on which country you’re in
⁃ light beers
⁃ rice beers
The Weizen Glas
Weizen is the German word for wheat (English people, read: corn); this glass is very specifically made for weizen beers. The idea around its shape is basically the same as with the pils glass. Its top allows for an even larger and thicker head; its shape allows for the imprisoned aromas to be released when taking a sip. The shape also varies according to whether you are drinking a typically low-alcohol weizen beer, the white, citrus or spice tasting beers, or high alcohol ones, such as doppelweizenbocks (double-wheat ales), which require a much wider top in order to let the alcoholic and sulfuric aromas dissipate and the beer warm up faster.
⁃ everything that begins, ends, or contains the word « weizen » or « wheat »
⁃ nothing else. really.
The glass of choice among the Belgian beer culture. Sometimes thin (Bokaal), sometimes thick (Kelk), it is a must-own if you are fond of Belgian or Belgian-inspired strong ales. Its shape allows the intense, sweet aromas to be smelled plentifully and to create an eternal head in order to let the alcoholic aromas to dissipate without losing too much smell. You wont these beer not too cold, so the shape of a chalice allows them to warm faster. Traditionally, monks have always made one glass per distinct beer type, and even though the technical differences are often negligible, it always feel right to drink these beers in the right glass.
⁃ dubbel, tripel, and quadrupel ales
⁃ strong Belgian inspired beers
Pronounce: shta-gne; means stick
Kölsch-specific, a Cologne tradition, the Stange (a feminine noun in German!) is a small, straight slim 20cl glass that concentrates aromas. Even though they are supposedly exclusive to Cologne, some brewers in Quebec have brewed these quite successfully.
⁃ Kölsch beers
⁃ very light beers
⁃ fruity beers
Designed to maximize aromas of stronger beers, it is quite similar in function to the nosing glass. One pours the beer quickly in order to create a massive head. Typically Belgian, its shape allows the beer to breathe and to warm up easily. At the top, aromas are concentrated by the narrowing. A very good tasting glass.
⁃ Strong Belgian ales;
⁃ Scotch ales
⁃ Double or imperial IPAs and stouts
The Kwak glass
It’s not quite a glass type, rather a unique one. Its shape and history are so particular that I have to mention it. A Belgian brewer/innkeeper invented it in order to quench the thirst of by-passing mail coachmen, who were not allowed to leave their coach in that time (19th century). The glass’ shape allows it to be hung and prevents the beer from spilling when moving around. The glass is still available today, so maybe we could use them here in Quebec with our bumpy roads… 😉
⁃ Any beer if you just want to show-off…!
However important the choice of a glass may be when one wants to taste its beer at its best, you shouldn’t go crazy about it. If available, try to find the glass shape that approximates the best the ideal glass and you’ll already have come a long way. As the Quebecois blogger Pierre-«Bière»-Luc Gagnon said so well in his short post,
about beer glassware
The choice of a glass is part of the tasting decorum. It is an agreeable luxury and a profitable complement, but rarely is it essential. A good beer in the wrong glass will always be better than a bad beer in the right glass.
Author: Jonathan Rondeau-Leclaire, aka Biére de Lys (click here to visit my page!)
title: Aus dem passendem Glas schmeckts am besten, free translation, http://www.wien-konkret.at/lifestyle/essen-trinken/bier/bierkultur/bierglas/
This note being the product of a non-exhaustive research, and certainly not a perfect one, I openly accept and hope to receive from you, readers and connoisseurs, corrections, improvements, or propositions that befit this article. The idea is to build a simple, comprehensive, and interesting documentation that anybody will enjoy reading!
Prost to free, crowd-sourced information!
- Pierre-Luc Gagnon, link to the article: http://goo.gl/PJsRD
- Personal experience…